Four Major Types Of Thyroid Cancer

By: JoannC
Death due to thyroid cancer is uncommon, because of the fact that thyroid cancer is usually an indolent disease, which tends to remain confined to the thyroid gland for many years. Thyroid cancer is fairly common, it accounts for about one percent of all cancers. This type of cancer usually responds well to treatment and many patients can be cured.

Thyroid cancer is a cancer of the thyroid glands, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck below the Adam's apple. The thyroid makes and stores hormones that help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which food is converted into energy. The thyroid uses and needs iodine to make several of its hormones. Thyroid hormones also help children grow and develop.

There are four major types of thyroid cancer:

Papillary Tumors
These tumors develop in cells that produce thyroid hormones containing iodine. These cancer cells grow very slowly forming many tiny, mushroom-shaped patterns in the tumor. These tumors can be treated by doctors successfully even when the cells have spread to the nearby lymph nodes. This type of tumor accounts for about sixty percent of all thyroid cancers.

Follicular Thyroid Tumors
These tumors also develop in cells that produce iodine-containing hormones, and have a thin layer of tissue around them, called a capsule. Many follicular tumors are curable but can be difficult to control if the tumor invades blood vessels or grows through the capsule into the nearby structures of the neck.

Medullary Tumors
These tumors affect thyroid cells that produce a hormone that does not contain iodine. These tumors grow slowly but are harder to control than papillary and follicular tumors. The cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

Anaplastic Tumors
These tumors are the fastest growing thyroid tumors. The cancer cells, which are extremely abnormal, spread rapidly to other parts of the body.

The most often symptom of this disease is a nodule in the thyroid region of the neck, but only five percent of these nodules are malignant. Sometimes the first sign is an enlarged lymph node. Other symptoms include hoarseness or difficulty speaking in a normal voice, swollen lymph nodes especially in the neck, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and pain in the throat or neck. However, an infection, a benign goiter, or another problem also could cause these symptoms. Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible to be diagnosed and treated properly.

Surgery is the most common form of treatment for thyroid cancer that has not spread to distant parts of the body. A part or the entire thyroid and any other affected tissue, such as the lymph nodes is usually removed with this procedure. This procedure however may not be recommended when a patient is found to have thyroid cancer that has spread. Treatment usually includes some form of systematic therapy, a treatment that can kill or slow the growth of the cancer cells throughout the body, such as chemotherapy, radioactive iodine therapy, and/or hormone therapy.
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